For such a small country, Switzerland puts on a show for culinary adventurers. Beyond the soaring Swiss Alps, the stunning Lake Lugano, and picturesque villages, Swiss cuisine is a treat for the tastebuds.
Common Swiss foods we all know and love include Swiss chocolate and cheese. But there is so much more to the country than those two famous delicacies. As you travel between regions from the French-speaking western region to the Italian-speaking south, there is a great variety of delectable dishes to try.
With our help, you’ll be able to explore the many parts of Switzerland sampling the best local eats and foods that have become popular all across the country.
Ready to explore Switzerland? Read our guide to the ultimate Switzerland itinerary.
Wherever it is that you call home, it’s likely you would have stumbled upon a version of Swiss Cheese. The ‘holey’ cheese has grown into a worldwide phenomenon. But what you may know, and love is not actually Swiss Cheese, it’s Emmental.
Switzerland is arguably the home of cheese, just based on the sheer amount of options available to locals. Including anything from your soft and smelly cheeses to the hard and delightful. So as you can see Emmental isn’t the only choice of cheese in Switzerland.
Wherever you are on your travels through Switzerland, you can pick up some certified local gems such as Gruyere (also common around the world) or alpkäse (alpine farmer’s cheese). Here, Swiss Cheese isn’t a singular type of cheese, but a label for all things cheesy.
The best way to maneuver around the scene is to explore one of the major supermarket chains and gather a bundle of all the cheeses that take your interests. Now that you know your favorites, you can make your way through the country like a dairy expert.
Swiss Cheese Fondue
Speaking of traditional Swiss food, when the cold winter months appear in Switzerland, cheese takes on a whole new meaning. Rather than a popular breakfast item, locals take their favorite cheeses to create cheese fondue.
The cheese melts in a big hot fondue pot and is a popular dish for group settings. This delicious treat helps stave off the cold, providing a warm and soothing taste. The melted cheese can be eaten via a small chunk of dipping bread, fruit or even a hard piece of cheese on a fork.
As the cheese bubbles away, the swirling hot flavors are the perfect antidote after a big day on the ski slopes or around the Christmas tree as the snow falls outside. If you are traveling to Switzerland in the summer, however, you won’t have to go without. Swiss Cheese Fondue is still a common menu item, with some restaurants serving this popular Swiss food as a specialty.
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Tête de Moine
Tête de Moine is a unique Swiss food you must try when visiting Switzerland. This cheese was first made by monks in the Bellelay Monastery. The cheese translates to ‘monk’s head’, with historical texts showing the monks at Bellelay had exceptional cheese-making skills from as far back as the 12th century.
The semi-hard cheese is cylindrical and made from cow’s milk. Before consumption, the cheese is placed on spruce woods for over two and a half months. While Gruyere and Raclette enjoy famous reputations, such is the prominence of Tête de Moine that it has been used as a form of payment throughout local history.
Rather than being cut, they shave the cheese using a girolle. The instrument helps to scrape a thin layer of cheese off the top, which oxygenizes the cheese and releases powerful aromas.
From Cheese Fondue to a rustic Swiss dish, Berner Platte is a hearty meal that originated from the nation’s capital. Hailing from Bern, Berner Platte is a traditional dish that brings together a variety of meats and vegetables.
When the Swiss defeated the French army in 1798, a victory celebration occurred where members of the community contributed. As it was late winter, preserved foods and staunch vegetables were the ingredients of choice.
The simple nature of the dish means it can easily be replicated back home, with all the key ingredients readily found in your local supermarket. The meal combines potatoes with a variety of meats, from smoked pork to beef.
Sausages mixed in sauerkraut, green beans and pickled turnips, are later added to round out this generous meal. While some prefer to turn Burner Platte into a stew, traditionally each item is cooked separately and placed on a large plate.
Wondering what else to do when in Bern? Why not explore Basel?
Älpermagronen Macaroni Pasta
One of the most loved Swiss foods is their Alplermagronen dish, AKA Alpine Macaroni. Aside from having an epic name, the very thought of Mac and Cheese is likely to make many traveler’s hearts skip a beat. But it wouldn’t be the Swiss way to simply copy another recipe. No, you’ll find some interesting differences in the Alplermagronen.
The basic meal has long been a way to feed the country’s alpine farmers. The traditional Swiss food combines the usual macaroni paste with local cheese (yes please!) and small potatoes cooked with onions. From there, different restaurants and local homes add their own twists, including homegrown herbs and spices or bacon.
To add the cherry on top, warm apple puree is then added to the dish, putting a unique exclamation mark on the Swiss version of a common worldwide meal.
A traditional Swish dish hailing from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland is Saffron Risotto. First made in the town of Ticino, on the southern edge of the country, the risotto is made with saffron from the local canton (state/province) of Valais.
The saffron is a beautiful dark red color and is known to be some of the best on earth. This may explain why the hand-picked spice is known as ‘red gold’. Aside from the iconic ingredient, the creamy risotto is like what you may have had at home, comprising rice, garlic, onions and butter. Common local additions include bacon and veal.
To top it all off, the risotto is seasoned with pepper, salt and thyme, along with the distinctive smell of the world-famous saffron.
After all the delicious melted cheese and classic Swiss foods, we have saved the best for last! Swiss chocolate is popular all around the world, with such classics as Lindt and Toblerone hailing from Switzerland. The latter copying the iconic shape of the Matterhorn.
Aside from the famous delicacies that exist wherever you go, no trip to Switzerland will be complete without sampling some local creations. Authentic and utterly amazing, the local chocolate you should get your hands on includes Callier and Frey.
They can be found in supermarkets around the country. But nothing tops wandering city streets where you will find chunks of unforgettable Sprüngli chocolate that you will want to take home with you.
From popular dinners to one of the most delectable deserts in Swiss cuisine, Bündner Nusstorte is a tart made from shortbread pastry. Originating in the Swiss German canton of Graubünden, the pastry is filled with caramel and a choice of nuts.
The recipe for the popular Swiss food dates back all the way to the year 1900. However, it’s likely Bündner Nusstorte didn’t rise to national prominence until 1934. At the Swiss Sample Fair, a local baker, Fausto Pult brought along his creation, wowing the crowd.
Walnuts are the most common choice to complement the caramel, although other nuts can be used. When you’re traveling around Switzerland, you can expect to have Bündner Nusstorte by the slice, while enjoying hot tea or coffee on the side.
Just like macaroni pasta, another traditional Swiss dish you may have tried already is Rosti. Hash browns are very similar to the Swiss version, which is pronounced locally as ‘Rir-stee’. To create the Swiss classic, you will need a bunch of grated potatoes that have been parboiled. From there, leave the potatoes to sit overnight.
The next day, the real fun begins. Start by heating a deep-sided pan and adding enough of your grated potatoes to create what would be a thick pancake. But remember, patience is key. Fry your Rosti slowly, while adding butter along the way. When one side feels solid, flip your pancake over and begin the process again.
Once the second side is done, your simple yet mouthwatering authentic Swiss dish awaits! But to be even more Swiss, why not add on a fried egg, bacon chunks, or melted Gruyere!
When translated, landjäger means land hunter due to its popularity among traditional hunters and those traveling the Swiss countryside. So why is this Swiss food such a regular choice? Convenience and flavor.
Landjäger is readily found not just in Switzerland, but in France, Austria and Germany as well. The semi-dried sausage is pressed until attaining the standard rectangular shape before being smoked and dried. The most common meats are pork and beef, which are then combined with red wine, spices, sugar, and lard.
Landjäger is easy to carry with no concerns about the food deteriorating. It’s the perfect snack to keep the hunger at bay as you traverse the Swiss Alps or journey from canton to canton.
Just like cheese, the Swiss are all about their bread. Wherever you travel around the country, you will find an enormous selection of diverse types, along with specialties that are distinct to each region. Now if you’re impressed by the 475 types of cheese found in Switzerland, prepare to once more pick your jaw from off the ground.
Switzerland has 22 specialities breads hailing from various regions. They help make up over 200 types of breads around the country. You could eat a different type each day and still have a new one to try after six months!
But even if you aren’t a fan of fluffy flour, there’s still one type of bread that everyone should try while in Switzerland. Zopf bread is traditional Swiss food that is found everyday on local breakfast tables. The soft, knotted bread is had alongside jam, nutella or a simple dose of butter. Simple yet incredibly delicious, you’ll want to journey to your local bakery every day. You can also expect Zopf bread to make an appearance on restaurant menus around Switzerland.
Now that you’ve tried regular local cheese, it’s time to experience a different type of cheese fondue. Yes, the Swiss never stop dreaming up new ways to enjoy their local delicacies. This time, instead of using a fondue setup, you will need what’s called a Raclette machine. The metal machine is circular, with space to slide in a tray.
But what cheese should you use? Well, to keep things simple and easy to remember, you should use Raclette. It’s a cheese found in the Wallis region of, you guessed it, Raclette. The cheese is easy to find around Switzerland as is commonly sold in pieces for easy melting.
After placing the Raclette in your tray and cooking it until the cheese begins to bubble, pour your melted goodness into a bowl of boiled potatoes. From there, enjoy with friends and family. Just like cheese fondue, Raclette is a popular communal pot used in the winter months.
One of the best traditional Swiss dishes from the stunning city of Zurich is Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, also known as Zurich-style veal. The veal is first cut into thin strips and quickly sauteed among onions and butter.
Once that is complete, they combine the veal with beef stock, creamy white wine sauce and mushrooms. For seasoning at the end, locals with use a dash of lemon juice along with salt and pepper. For an additional kick, contemporary recipes may also feature paprika.
Although hearty on its own, the Zürcher Geschnetzeltes is commonly served with another traditional Swiss food, Rosti. While rice, pasta or mashed potatoes are other popular sides.
See the best of Zurich with our three-day itinerary.
Aside from cheese, Swiss food traditionally served at breakfast is the healthy and tasty Birchermuesli. Muesli itself is a big part of Swiss cuisine, with its roots found within the country. Birchermuesli, however, is the most popular version with a long past.
The muesli will change as your venture between regions, but the usual recipe is soaking your oats overnight in yogurt. The next day, you can add in fruit, nuts or anything that piques your interests. There is no hard and fast rule.
On the other side of the Swiss Alps is the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. Arguably the prettiest region in all of Switzerland, the lakes and soaring mountains are home to one of the most diverse Swiss foods, Polenta.
Polenta combines traditional Italian and Swiss cuisine and is ground corn with a similar texture to couscous. Just like Couscous, Polenta has many uses which will vary even within the region of Ticino. Two popular versions of Polenta couldn’t be more different, with one being soft and creamy and the other cubed and fried.
For the soft and creamy version of Polenta, simply mix the ground corn with water and spices over low heat. If you want a more substantial meal, you can add in Gorgonzola cheese, or even local sausages. Top it all off with a generous serving of parmesan.
Another stunning part of Switzerland is Grindelwald First. Read up on the top things to do!
What to Know about Traditional Swiss Food
With connections to Northern Italian cuisine along with traditional cooking in France and Germany, Swiss food varies greatly between regions. Owing also to its agricultural background, traditional Swiss cuisine tends to be made from basic ingredients.
The genuine joy in eating local food or trying along at home is the diversity of ideas and twists on typical recipes. Not to mention that the food is delicious and simple to make. Whether that be a homemade rosti or bringing out your fondue set to melt some tasty Gruyere.
Despite simple recipes, eating out in Switzerland can be expensive. While dining is usually restricted to a lunch (12pm-2pm) and dinner section (6pm-10pm). Between those times, snacks and basic foods make up the bulk of your options.
A great way to experience local food if you are on a budget is to venture into your major local supermarket. Coop or Migros are common examples and offer a great alternative to restaurants.
Vegetarian Swiss Cuisine
Traveling through Switzerland as a vegetarian is easy, despite the prominence of smoked meats and sausages in traditional Swiss cuisine. Vegetarians will find menu alternatives and supermarkets serve a growing local vegetarian and vegan population.
When visiting Zurich, be sure to dine in at Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world having opened in 1898.
Cheese in all its forms may play a big role in Swiss cuisine, but there is more than enough to keep you excited throughout your travels. When you fall in love with Ticino’s Polenta, you’ll be able to try the Germanic version as you travel further north. The same goes for Zürcher Geschnetzeltes.
Then there’s the famed Saffron Risotto which is hard to replicate, but nonetheless, a must-try dish. As you dine out in the mesmerizing valleys or on the cobblestone city streets, you may wander which Swiss food you’d love to try at home..
The strength of Swiss cuisine is both in the taste and simplicity, with something as simple as melted cheese bringing together friends and family. This is all to say, that even when your travels to Switzerland end, you’ll have a great time recreating your culinary memories at home.
Now that you know the food, did you know Switzerland is home to Europe’s highest railway station? Check out our guide to the Top of Europe.